United States Army Officer. Little Bighorn U.S. Military Officer. The son of William and Ellen T. Roche Reily, his father graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1847, and was lost in the Straits of Formosa, off China, while serving on the USS Porpoise on Sept. 21, 1854. Also lost on the vessel was William Van Wyck, for whom young Reily was named. Reily's widowed mother remarried Col. Simeon M. Johnson in 1861; he died in 1871, and her third marriage was to Rear Admiral John C. Febiger, USN. William Reily was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1870, and after failing three examinations, resigned in Oct. 1872. He participated in a surveying expedition to Nicaragua, Dec. 1872 to July 1873, and later was employed at the Washington Navy Yard supervising the dismantling of monitor class warships. On Oct. 15, 1875, he obtained a direct appointment as 2nd Lt., 10th US Cavalry. He transfered to the 7th US Cavalry on January 25, 1876, and joined Company E at Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, on April 17. 1876. One month later he rode from the Fort with his regiment to participate in the Sioux Campaign. Temporarily assigned to Company F, 7th Cavalry, Reily perished with Lt.Col. George A. Custer's battalion at the battle of Little Bighorn. His body was found on Last Stand Hill. Originally buried on the field, his remains were recovered the following year, and on August 3, 1877, interred in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, DC. A signet ring that Reily wore at the time of his death was later recovered from an Indian who surrendered at Fort Robinson, NE in April, 1877. The ring is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
Bio by: Brian Pohanka